By Hani Ismail
Procter & Gamble, Saudi Arabia Country Manager
AS a Saudi national, I am proud of how much my country has developed as it has progressed at a rapid pace. The Kingdom is the tenth largest country in the world by GDP per capita and it has become, according to the World Bank, the ‘strongest Arab economy’ in the world.
Today there is a main focus that looks beyond what brought our main source of economic growth, namely oil and gas, to promote a more diversified economy. The government’s strategic vision is to create an economy that supports and fosters private sector entrepreneurial spirit, one that encourages innovation and provides employment for hundreds of thousands of Saudi youths.
There has been a lot of talk about economic diversification, as well as transforming Saudi Arabia into a hub for businesses across the globe. I wanted to share a different story, that of my own company. Through our partnership with the Abu Dawood family, Procter & Gamble has been present in Saudi Arabia for over sixty years. During that time, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in establishing two state-of-the-art manufacturing plants. Where we have hired thousands of men and women, the majority of them Saudi nationals. The Kingdom has long been a manufacturing hub for Procter & Gamble; we export brands such as Always, Ariel, Downy, Fairy, Head & Shoulders, Pampers, Pantene and Tide to over twenty countries in two continents. Our operations in Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh are key to our growth across a wider region.
The question I am often asked is, ‘Why Saudi?’ My response is always the same. Saudi Arabia has offered and continues to offer Procter & Gamble the foremost location in the region for manufacturing. There is ample space to build manufacturing facilities, which is supported by the Saudi Industrial Property Authority’s integrated infrastructure and services. Our two production facilities are cutting-edge; we have hosted visits from our colleagues in countries as far off as Japan who have sought to learn how we manufacturer in Saudi at such high levels of efficiency.
There is the cost of production; energy and water rates are amongst the most competitive in the world. This will change as subsidies are removed and we are doing our part to conserve resources, leverage renewable energy to power our facilities, and ensure that we have no waste going to landfill. On top of that, the Kingdom has a world-class, diversified transportation infrastructure which means that our supply chain operates efficiently, both inbound and outbound.
Furthermore, I would like to share the most important differentiator to Procter & Gamble when it comes to our operations in Saudi, which is the people. I am proud of the remarkable talent that we have in this country, especially among the youth. We employ approximately 900 people directly at our sites in the country, of whom 70% are Saudi nationals. We have employed tens of thousands more during the company’s history. Many of P&G’s Saudi employees work outside of the country, in locations as near as Dubai and as far as our HQ in Cincinnati and Geneva. They have proved time and time again that there is no obstacle or challenge that they cannot overcome.
When I look at Saudi Arabia, I see potential. I know that my company feels the same. For these reasons and many more, Saudi will remain P&G’s manufacturing location of choice. I have many hopes for the future of my country and welcome other multinationals to learn from our experience as they grow their presence in the region.